Rep. Steny Hoyer, education officials call for action after St. Mary’s Co. school shooting

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer said in the wake of Tuesday’s school shooting in Great Mills, Maryland, that “a moment of silence is not enough. We need a day, a week, a month, of action.”

Hoyer, D-Maryland, whose district includes Great Mills, where a student died after shooting two other students Tuesday morning, said his first reaction was “a deep sense of loss.”

After that, he said, came “anger. Anger that we have been unable to take action which will stem … the likelihood of unsafe areas in our country.”

The congressman suggested universal background checks, which he said 97 percent of Americans favor — “so that when you go to buy a gun, we know who you are. We know that you’re not a criminal; we know that you’re not mentally unstable; we know you’re not on the terrorist watch list; we know that you’re not a spousal abuser. You don’t eliminate the risk, but you reduce the risk.”

Hoyer recalled last week’s National School Walkout, and mentioned that he was particularly struck by the “searing” comment of Matthew Post, the student member of the Montgomery County School Board.

“I understand there may be constitutional right to have a gun,” Hoyer recalled him saying; “but I have a constitutional right to live.”

After reports that the school’s armed resource officer engaged with the shooter, Hoyer said it was “very possible that the school resource officer’s response saved lives.”

Gov. Larry Hogan shared similar sentiments Tuesday. At a news conference, he said, “Our hearts are broken.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are always with the victims and their families,” he added, but “we need more than prayers.”

He had scathing criticism for the state legislature, saying that an emergency bill written after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting was “one of the most aggressive school safety plans in America … and the legislature has failed to take action.”

With three weeks left in the session, Hogan said, “It’s outrageous that we haven’t taken action yet on something as important as school safety.”

He added, “I wish I could tell you that it’s not going to happen again.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, also released a statement saying “My heart is with the students, parents, teachers, and the entire St. Mary’s community. But while words can express our feelings, only action will reduce gun violence and save lives. That’s why Congress must take common-sense steps to stop the epidemic of gun violence. The GOP leadership must respect the American people and allow the Senate and House to vote on sensible gun-safety measures.”

He added that he would be part of the March For Our Lives on Saturday in D.C. “We cannot allow the cries of survivors and students to be drowned out by the gun lobby,” he said.

Education officials

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said in a statement that “our hearts are broken yet again by a senseless and tragic shooting in our nation’s public schools. The NEA is steadfast in our support of the students, staff and families of Great Mills High School.

“We join the Maryland State Education Association and Education Association of St. Mary’s County in calling for policy changes that will end these preventable and traumatic events. Enough is enough. We all have a responsibility to create safe schools and communities. We can and must do more [to] ensure that everyone who walks through our school is safe and free from the threat of violence.”

Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, also expressed gratitude to the first responders, and added, “as we learn more details from this morning’s shooting at Great Mills High School, one thing is clear: it is far past time for gun violence in our schools to end. Students and educators deserve days filled with learning and discovery, not with fear and lockdowns.”

And Jill Morris, president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County, said, “we are heartbroken that gun violence in schools has now touched our community, and we pray for the full recovery of the students who were shot. Simply put, it is devastating that for the students of Great Mills, their memories of school will now include this traumatic day.”

She added, “We are resolved to provide all the support and comfort we can to our colleagues and neighbors in the Great Mills community while we work together towards a day when no school community ever has to experience this type of tragedy.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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